Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Appreciation for Pearl S. Buck by Su Zi

                      Pearl S Buck: Forgotten Diamond

     The Nobel Prize for Literature is generally recognized as the most prestigious  of literary awards; it recognizes life-time achievement on a global scale. Although a rough dozen American authors have won this award, only two of them have been women: Toni Morrison and , decades before her, Pearl S Buck.

     Now, we do no service to any artist in any genre by categorizing their work with a one word label, and Buck was aware of this when she wrote three novels set in America; in the introduction to a volume that collects these novels together (John Day, 1958), Buck discusses both why she wrote the work with American settings, and why she used the alternative name of John Sedges—fully acknowledging her audiences' expectation of her as being "the old self, the Asian self”. Yet, Buck’s three American novels are brilliant, showing a profound understanding of American culture, of American character, that is illuminating despite the sixty odd years that have passed since Buck’s eye was cast upon us, thus.

     Buck’s writing in and of itself has a subtle and powerful beauty that may seem as foreign to modern readers as her works with other settings—for modern literature has taken a terse superficiality that reminds one of franchise food—a poor, nutritionally vapid imitation of a truly fine experience.  In Voices In The House, the New England setting, the upper class characters are so precisely yet compassionately drawn, that readers who have never experienced this aspect of American culture will see the veil lifted. At one point, the rising action of the plot is further complicated by the arrival of a dog, “a huge black dog of an unknown breed”  who is “immense” and who “eats two pounds of meat at a meal” (377).  The dog serves the novel’s story as a symbol of violence that becomes ever more difficult to control, and a counterpoint to the studied, generations-bred demeanor of the central characters.  Buck clues us to this counter-point when:
A moment later the dog felt itself pushed through the door into the cold and the door was locked upon him. It flung its body against the door, bellowing, and this was the noise that William now heard, the uproar, the howls of a wild animal, and then he heard the dreadful sound of clawing upon the oaken front door, the pride of the house, the door so old that tradition said it had come from a massive oak on the mountain side, already hundreds of years old when the Winston family settled here in Vermont (385).

Buck’s use of the alliterative name for her primary character, the consonant pattern of  l to paint the character of the dog in contrast to the assonant o  that gives the door—an object—a value to the characters perceivable to the reader, and a sense of how the setting of the family home as an established entity –these all paint for the reader a sense of culture that is probably still as entrenched in American culture as it was a hundred years ago when the novel was set.

     Two of the three “John Sedges” novels are set in the northeastern terrain of our country, and the sense of an isolated and hierarchical culture is clear yet compassionately, sensitively drawn. This is Buck’s brilliance, for  the novels she had set in China, in Korea, in India are also sensitive to the point of view of characters in a clearly specific setting, as well as the cultural expectations and traditions within which the characters live. 

     Buck’s novel The Townsman is primarily set in Kansas, although the characters emigrate there from England at a time when Kansas was becoming settled. Buck’s detailed vision of sod houses, of the disparity between character personality types, of the eventual growth of the area, are a precise vision of the prosaic details of this existence that are often glossed over by American history itself.

    It becomes ironic that Buck herself is passed over by so many of those who read: her work is so sensitively drawn that anyone reading The Living Reed, set in Korea, will have a far more profound understanding of Korean culture than any discussions provided by modern journalistic media. Our modern treasure, Ha Jin, a Chinese émigré, in his Nankin Requiem, paints the horrors of the Japanese invasion, but Buck was ahead of him by a few decades in Dragon Seed. It may be that Buck is read by some writers, but being the brilliant gem of American literature that is only seen by a few makes her work similar to that of a masterful painting held in a private collection, admired by a few selected guests. Buck ought to be required reading, and any person who prides themselves on their intellect ought to be familiar with her work in canon.
Buck is an American treasure whose work deserves a readership in each any every decade of our culture.    

You can find some of Buck's work on Amazon.  

100 Books You Must Read - #38 - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Novelist Pearl S. Buck Interview (Merv Griffin Show 1966)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A DONOVAN Tribute by Jimmy Christian Blue / Jimmy Stanley

''I suppose I could start by saying I first learned to sing at the age of 3 singing in front of old jukeboxes while people put their money in to hear the hits of the day. So I developed an interest in music at a young age. When I was 5 years old, I recall how my brother, a keen old vinyl record collector, came home one day with an EP and told me it was a guy called 'Donovan'. I didn't know who this mysterious Donovan was but instantly became a fan of his music when he put the EP on the turntable. Universal Soldier was the first track I remember hearing and I just knew this guy had something and was on a different track from the rest of the singer/songwriters I had heard. His guitar style...very unique voice.. and the ability to bond with a younger listener like me and older listeners like my brother, who had also taken up guitar himself, and surprisingly my parents liked him too. They were trademarks of this guy's ability to communicate with people of all ages.

Throughout the years ever since, I have always admired Donovan's songs, and the effortless way he can conjure up a mood or atmosphere just by playing his guitar and singing. He can transport you to a another beautiful time and place when listening to his albums. Particularly my 2 favourites, the Celtic/Folk/pop of Fairytale, with excellent other-wordly beautiful haunting tracks like Jersey Thursday and Summer Day Reflection Song. Then the multi-influenced Sunshine Superman album, which was, to be fair, many years ahead of it's time.

I have three brothers, and my eldest brother became a keen folk/ bluegrass musician around the time I first heard Donovan. I suppose in many ways, I could relate to Donovan that much easier because of the familiar Celtic strains in the music. I began to teach myself the guitar and learned the chords and claw-hammer style to his songs by listening intently to the records and CDs later.

I started writing songs when I was about 11. A lot were influenced by Donovan and some by the 60s artists like The Beatles, Monkees and Jimi Hendrix. To me, music of today has the legacy of the 60s to thank for all it's many different genres and styles.

Insight is a fascinating thing, and as a songwriter I used this gift to great effect when I put together my album Dedications last year.

I had already written many songs and wanted to make an album. I then had the offer to join Tunecore, who were offering the chance to make a download album for a few dollars and distribute it out to the masses via Amazon, Itunes, Zunes, Spotify and a few others.

I took up this exciting offer and wondered what I should call the album. It wasn't till then, I made an extraordinary discovery about my writing. Almost all the songs I had written in the 10 years since I had been recording at home, were all sort of salute songs. In other words, I wrote biographical songs about people I admired in my life. They weren't just luminaries, or household names, but people I had grown up with or my family. So, the answer on what to call the album was literally right in front of my eyes. So I decided on the name DEDICATIONS as that's what it was all about. All the tracks and instruments were written, produced, arranged and performed by yours truly also.  An album of dedications to people I knew or stars I had always admired in the music business. The Jimmy Christian Blue tag was just an eye-catching name to call myself and to possibly help sell my music better, although I realized Jimmy Stanley isn't all that bad after all, and the Jimmy CB was just for that one album. I have since reverted to my trusty original name.

The song Donovan Dreams is also featured on the new album DEDICATIONS. It's a biographical song about Donovan, as you would expect, and it's influenced quite heavily by the great man's style of vibrato singing and guitar-playing. It features a 12-string acoustic, original Hofner Beatles bass, and light percussion. I find that you need to find at least a few of the key elements to any performer's sound if you are going to write and produce a song about them. That was the task I set myself for DEDICATIONS. So all the tracks you hear are influenced in some way by the artists concerned and by the music that inspired them. When writing about people I grew up with, the influences are a bit more across the board from ELO to The Beach Boys, to Queen, depending on the subject's favorite artists. I like to diversify with my music as much as I can. It keeps me on my toes musically.
Like many other Donovan fans, I felt that his indoctrination into the Rock n' Roll hall of fame was long, long overdue. I was thrilled when I heard the news around January 2011. So that was the moment of inspiration for the song Donovan Dreams.

Jimmy's Dedication's album is available digitally on Amazon.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Clyde's Emerson TV, scultpure by Jerry Wennstrum

Jerry Wennstrom PO 522 Clinton, Whidbey Island, WA 98236 In 1979 Jerry Wennstrom was a rising star in the New York art world when he let go of his identity as an artist by intentionally destroying his large body of art and giving away his possessions. With this leap of faith Jerry embarked on a decade of wandering, listening, seeking, and relying on intuition and unconditional trust to guide and provide for him. His book, The Inspired Heart: An Artist’s Journey of Transformation, is a self-portrait of the life of a man guided by a desire to connect to the divine, creative spirit. Jerry is the subject of two Parabola and Sentient Publications documentary videos, In the Hands of Alchemy and Studio Dialogue. The tower that Jerry built on his Whidbey Island property, along with his life's story, are featured in the book, Holy Personal by Laura Chester. Jerry travels nationally teaching, lecturing, and presetting the films. He also writes a monthly column for Inferential Focus, a New York City think tank and consulting firm. Web site -

The multiple images of a zoetrope, installed inside of a 1950's Emerson TV, revolve around a still Buddha figure in the center. Visually held in placed by a pair of strobe lights, the images give the appearance of a single animated face, changing from life to death to life again.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Knife Edge and Absinthe- The Tango Poems by Lyn Lifshin

Knife Edge & Absinthe

The Tango Poems 

by Lyn Lifshin

Price: $10.00
Paperback: 60 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985671513
ISBN-13: 978-0985671518

NightBallet Press

Order from

Knife Edge & Absinthe- The Tango Poems is a handsome 60-page collection of never-before-seen "tango poetry" by the legendary Lyn Lifshin. It contains a series of poems that explores the erotic knife-edge of freedom and loss of self in the absinthe of dancing the tango. For a single copy, only $10 plus $2 shipping! This fantastic book is available now!

Reviews of Knife Edge; The Tango Poems

These tango poems are jazz, sweet, slinky.They wrap their legs around you and then leap out, leaving your heart beating. They pull you in as only tango does, all passion and juice, cold and hot, smooth and spicy...your head left slightly off-center, off the main beat, not knowing whether to breathe or not. Lifshin is dancer and poet and if anyone could embrace tango in words, it is she. Any poem quoted from this book will make you stand up, quiver slightly and be ready to fall off into the ecstatic abyss of eroticism.

"Tango Before the Light Goes Blood/streaks tourmaline sky./put on your ruby skirt,/transparent as rose gauze/fishnet scissors under./When stars glaze the/tango floor....."
This little book will leave a tart, sweet/sour taste and you will crave more and more.
—Alice Pero

As far as KNIFE EDGE & ABSINTHE (ha - - who was it that said "absinthe makes the heart grow fonder" - lol) - - is a beautiful book. I read it one sitting on the subway
The poems in this book are just wonderful - - reinforcing why she is my favorite poet in the world! You would think with all the work I've read and reviewed of hers that nothing could surprise me, but these poems did - - they make me want to write poetry, they also make me want to take TANGO lessons (I'm serious!)
— Cindy Hochman

The following review published July 2, 2012 on BookRoom Review
By Christina Zawadiwsky

Knife Edge & Absinthe – The Tango Poems, by Lyn Lifshin, published on June 15, 2012, by NightBallet Press, 60 pages.
are what we follow
to find the source
and in tango, the
source is why the
person chooses this
dance, the repetition
of patterns is what
we perceive as
harmony, it makes
us believe every
thing is well
in our universe

from the poem “She Said She Can See Patterns”

Knife-Edge & Absinthe – The Tango Poems, is about passion, both for life in general and for the dance itself. Beautifully produced by Dianne Borsenik’s NightBallet Press, this book of poems is Lyn Lifshin’s testament to a life of romance and precision, of following one’s partner in set patterns that linger like the night air after the dance is over and a new dance may be beginning in the hearts and minds of the dancers.
A dancer herself who has seriously studied ballet, Lifshin unfolds for us the longing that is inherent in the the dance, particularly the tango, as is evidenced in this poem:

“The Lapiz”

you drag your foot
in a circle as if
drawing on the
sand. The foot
never leaves the
ground. The lapiz
is a motion that
can be done with
aggression like a
bull pawing the
ground before
charging. The
follower can do it
by herself during
a pause but
when both dance
they make a slow
circle together,
keep their bodies
still and just
move their feet
circles along
the floor. It can
be very sensual,
a suspended state
of seduction

The poem "When There’s No Real Love Like A Tango" examines the loves and dances in one’s life that are without passion, and "Unbalanced Tango" talks about

What should be
smooth, a lynx,
strong and sweet,
is ragged, a car
with 3 flat tires.
Demon Lover Tango tells us:
…..When the music
stops, we are like
strangers, bodies
melting into each other,
awkward with words
in the light

"Obsession Tango" admonishes “still,/fantasy is the only/place you can keep him” and Ebony Night Tango advises “Forget about sleeping./Who doesn’t want/to go to the edge./It’s a taboo dance, a/taboo of onyx and/midnight.” Valentino Tango acknowledges “……Drums in/your blood/throb. The/electricity could/light up Mars”. In Green Willow Tango we learn about “What/couldn’t stay contained,/what couldn’t wait in/a cocoon of longing,/what winter kept/closed as a fist…”.

Lifshin’s Knife-Edge & Absinthe – TheTango Poems glistens with a myriad of ideas about how the tango is reflective of our entire lives. In Handcuffed To Heat Tango, “the wood floor…./alive in/the memory of/when it was a/dark oak and/there were still/live birds and/southern winds/singing in its branches” radiates beneath the dancers themselves. And in Crush Tango “With him/she is a flame on the/breeze or the breeze/on the flame as/sanity falls away/like snakeskin”.


but hold your partner
like you mean it
when the man
turns his chest
follow it, twist at
your waist
sink into the floor.
All this as the
lilies are
and inside
your body too
Now, push off
and step away
(end of review)
(sample poems)


I didn't know it was addictive,
dangerous as morphine,
mysterious, no, electric as
that touch from a stranger you
know could never not be
riveting as death, Anything
pastel couldn't compete.
Save the waltz for the blue
eyes blondes, I want a tango I
might not survive, exotic
as Valentino in a tent
under a desert moon, that
circle a flaming plate.
This dance is a drug like thighs
scorching, a duel of bodies no one
can turn back from. The heroin
dance, musky as Araby or rose skin
where some woman waits
in darkness, the tent flats
opening like labia


not as well known
as the Cinderella tango
or the Little Red
Riding Hood one. But it's
got more tang and
wouldn't you want that
in tango? It has arms,
there are always secrets
beyond the door. Too
many fall for ex cons,
criminals, deceivers.
What you think is
desire could  be
desire for your throat.
Dance with him if
you must. Let him
wrap his body around
you, feel his blood.
But remember,
be curious but be


when he presses against
her in the corte, the ink
of lies move deeper.
You can read the story
of a life in tattoos. How
skin receives, what
stays. Even on the dance
floor his thighs leave
the patterns of his touch.
When he flings her away,
the ink still dripping,
the script behind her eyes
deepens, darkens, All
she's resigned herself to,
the high of his touch,
those words inked thru
his chest and body,
imagined long enough,
become what's real

—Review by Christina Zawadiwsky
published July 2, 2012 on BookRoom Review

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Building Community: Ed Anderson, by Su Zi

 A strong arts community requires both arts and community, and local arts communities will not find vitality without vitality of community overall. In dense population centers, a sense of community tends to be suppressed by the glut of bodies, of buildings; to live rural—or semi-rural—such as in Central Florida, where whole counties of formerly agrarian character have been subsumed by generic and gated communities, a sense of community involves a profound life choice, s mindful way of being. One advantage of  this life choice the ability to buy food from the people who grow it; one such person is Dr. Ed Anderson, who grows the most delicious citrus to be found anywhere. Every winter, Ed Anderson has a small sign at the gate to his grove, and folks stop in to buy a bursting full bag of navel oranges or red grapefruit for a mere five dollars.  Of this grove, Ed Anderson says, “ The grove was in existence when my wife’s people  bought the property in 1945. I think from the old story that it was a big, big grove.” Suddenly, awareness unfolds: to live somewhere is to exist as part of a community, and in doing so, one can no longer remain blind to that community’s history.

   In the case of citrus groves, Ed Anderson is a wealth of local lore; about his own grove, he says:
“ All I can say is that it was part of groves that went to Eustice [Florida} and went back up to Belleview. Back in the 1970s, they were big up in Orange Lake, but they had freezes and mishaps, so there’s not much going on. We had a freeze in ’83, another in ’84 and a killer in ’85. This grove and all the others froze all the way to Highway 50. I was told to bulldoze, but I cut ‘em off and allowed the shoots to come up, and I budded ‘em off when they were two years old. It took five or six years before it produced anything. Trees gotta grow. I decided not to spend on spray. I feel that the oranges are not as pretty, but everybody tells me they are the best oranges they ever had.”  

The area where Ed Anderson sells his fruit is  sheltered by an enormous, regal live oak tree—one too rarely  seen anymore. Of the tree, Doc says that someone came from the University of Florida and dated the tree’s age to about 350 years. Ed Anderson seems comfortable with the folks who come, who buy oranges,  who chat awhile. It turns out that Ed Anderson, now a retired dentist, also served in his community as a member of the school board at a tempestuous time:
   “ The day we went in to raise your right hand followed up with the teacher’s strike that started right then [1968].I was always on the teacher’s side and knew they weren’t adequately paid. In those days, it was hard to look a teacher in the eye and  hand ‘em their paycheck…it was embarrassing what they were paid.” The Florida teacher’s strike of the late 1960s is an erased bit of local, as well as national history; Florida subsequently will now fire any striking teacher. Ed’s view of that time also includes the civil rights struggles: “The main thing we accomplished is that we agreed to go along with the federal demand to integrate the schools. We were the second county in the state to do it, and it became the end of my political career.”

    Ed’s awareness of community, of its history, is tinged with a certain sorrow : “ Marion County could have been one of the highlights of the state, but I think development has taken over.” He reflects for a moment, and then says , “Basically, I think that we should develop in this county access for all citizens rather than just certain power structures. The power structures are selfish; they want to make money and develop the state and not wisely, not wisely.”  While Ed Anderson speaks of his fifty year experience in this local community, it is likely that his words would have resonance in any formerly rural area. 

    Saying “the grove was a community organization”, Ed Anderson reflects on corporate growers: “They spend a lot of time and money spraying so they [the oranges] will be pretty when they come off the tree. A pretty orange is not an opening to the best orange.” Ed Anderson’s oranges are “sold right off my own property”, and he well remembers “orange groves all over the place”. Ed speaks to the year round work required, and says “people come in here with a smile”.  While a few bags of oranges might not revolutionize the lifestyle of an individual, the choice to purchase directly from the grower initiates a mindfulness that leads to not only better individual health, but better economic health in one’s own community. Ed’s oranges are not sprayed with substances banned in this country a generation ago—as is the case for many imported produce species. Additionally, to taste Ed’s oranges—to taste produce that’s actually grown and ripe when picked is an exquisite experience, one Ed Anderson, himself, acknowledges: “The fruit speaks for itself. People come in here because of the goodness of the fruit.” Yes, a sweet truth most certainly.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Solving the Communion Enigma: What is to Come by Whitley Strieber, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Solving the Communion Enigma: What is to Come
Whitley Strieber
Penguin Group
New York, NY
216 pgs
ISBN: 978-58542-917-2 

It has been a quarter of a century since I published Communion and the subsequent tow follow-on books, Transformation and Breakthrough. These books described a series of experiences that I had between 1985 and 1994, conventionally known as “close encounters of the third kind” or “alien abduction.”

But are they what they seem?

After the last of these books was published, the experiences continued for a number of years, and left me with discoveries that take matters far beyond the conventional assumptions.

In 1986, novelist Whitely Strieber knocked America off her feet by releasing a book titled Communion, which pretty much addressed a problem he was having with the abduction experience. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the abduction experience, which is a major part of contemporary UFO literature, well then, I have to consider you somewhat ill-informed.

In 1986, Strieber’s book Communion rocked the literary world. I mean, you really have to understand that here is a novelist of such books as Wolven and The Hunger, who all of a sudden releases a book about alien abduction, not as fiction, but as fact. In fact, on the dust jacket, it states “this is a true story”.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I ate Communion up. It was simply a nicely written book, and one that made me believe in the possibility of alien abductions. Since the time of that first publication, Strieber has written five other books addressing the subject. This latest book Solving the Communion Enigma: What is to Come, in my opinion, is absolutely the weakest of the lot.

There is nothing new in this book, nothing that you have not encountered before in abduction literature. It is just Whitely going on and on and on about the alien gardener. About visitations that you have heard so many times before. I’m sorry, but there come a time when you need a new gig. I really yearn for Whitley to return to writing fiction. This is just so much bullshit.

You know, recently, I made a trip to Roswell, New Mexico, and you couldn’t even bring up Whitely Strieber’s name to any learned ufoligist without being snickered at. And this is why. This latest book simply doesn’t deliver, and I cannot recommend it. But I will highly recommend Communion.

 It’s just that someone has to tell Whitely enough is enough, already. Stop taking us to space, and take us to your brilliant stories, Whitley. We enjoyed the ride.

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